Mad to be Normal: The crazy wisdom of R D Laing

Here`s a movie that might be of interest to some sannyasins and veterans of in-yer-face therapies of the 60s 70s and 80s.

Osho praised R D Laing profusely. Amongst other things he said:
“The great Western psychologist, R. D. Laing, made a new discovery. Laing tried to demonstrate that there are many people in Western insane asylums who if they had been born some time in the past,in the East, would have been thought of as masts,fakirs and mystics..”

th

 

 

 

 

 

Laing, for his part, didn`t seem to reciprocate the compliment, and was even arrested for throwing a full bottle of wine through the Osho centre window in Belsize Park in 1985 whilst shouting “Orange wankers”. When asked by the cops why he had done it,he replied “Religious reasons”.
Was he a `mast` or just mashed?
Probably a bit of both.
Whichever way you look at it, the gap between being a mystic and blabbering in an asylum, or an exponent of crazy-wisdom or just outright crazy is, all-told, wafer-thin .

Frank

This entry was posted in Discussion. Bookmark the permalink.

47 Responses to Mad to be Normal: The crazy wisdom of R D Laing

  1. Kavita says:

    Frank, thank you for this post, I so agree with you on this: “Whichever way you look at it, the gap between being a mystic and blabbering in an asylum, or an exponent of crazy-wisdom or just outright crazy is, all-told, wafer-thin.”

    Since few months my mother, Dhyan Arti, has been immobile due to her arthritis; according to her medical support/doctors, she had a stroke which resulted in her being stuck at a certain point in life most of her seemingly wakeful state.

    She reminds me a lot of my dear friend Shantam, who imagines that bringing back the (his) golden past will be the only solution to mankind. My mother, on the other hand, hallucinates that all our friends and her family would be living together under one roof; her geography was never good, but now she thinks that distance does not exist!

    • Shantam Iqbal says:

      Thanks, Kavita for misquoting me.

      I have never said Osho Commune was the biggest breakthrough in human evolution.
      I am also not one who has ever used adjective for Osho as Master of the Masters.
      Also I take this Never Born, Never Died thing as poetry and not some fact.

      What I have said again and again Osho Commune International was creation of a man whom many revered as their spiritual master.

      It was walk of the walks of Osho. It is unfortunate state when His talks are glorified more than his creation.

      It was this place a young girl in you dropped her professional ambition in 1991-92 and shifted from Mumbai to Pune.

      • Kavita says:

        Sorry, Shantam, for misquoting, but that is what comes across here on SN.

        About me shifting, I would say I was never ambitious, in fact it was the lack of ambition that brought me to Pune, probably our interpretations of others is mainly to do with our selves.

  2. kusum says:

    Frank…start doing dynamic meditation in some public place & then see what happens. Lol….

  3. Tan says:

    Frank boy, I remember Osho talking about the difference between enlightenment and madness/insanity.

    From what I remember, madness/insanity is a kind of getting out of the mind through the back door.

    In ancient times in India, the enlightened guys would prefer to work with insane in madhouses than ‘normal’ seekers. They thought it was easier!

    Maybe somebody here, in SN, could add more. Cheers!

  4. Kavita says:

    In an unattached way, my own experience with my mother, Arti, in these last months is that (in her case ) in that space, when physically/mentally something gets triggered, one becomes totally open to something unknowable &identification with oneself is completely lost, but probably when one comes back to oneself there is total confusion of the self.

    The first time I shared & discussed this happening with Swami Nirav (a medical doctor), who has also worked in the commune medical facility for many years, he called it “organic”, which I could relate to. Then there was one Ma who came visiting who said in a classical ashram style that this is a “no mind” state .

    Frankly, mentally it is very easy to understand this but practically it is draining at times for me. Then I wonder at times one has to go through what one has to, so no complaints.

    I guess it has been therapeutic to share here on SN, thank you all.

    • frank says:

      Kavita,
      Sounds like your mum`s stroke has given her some dementia.
      I know from experience that dealing with someone in these kind of states is,as you say ,very draining.

      Some people equate the memory/identity loss is some kind of enlightenment.
      or going beyond ego. It is safe to say that these people haven`t dealt with the everyday reality!

      All the best with it, and although it is a cliché in carers circles: don`t forget to look after yourself, too!

      • Kavita says:

        Thanks, Frank, it is not a complete case of dementia, she has some strong memories of the recent past, she is in fact more bodily perceptive of the present, it’s only that she has no sense of her practical reality, which is confusing to her doctors.

        She also thinks she is a multi-millionaire! She wants to buy everyone she loves a house & car!

        I think ‘Mad to be Normal’ is such an apt phrase for this reality-based life most of us are leading.

  5. Parmartha says:

    Thanks, Frank.
    Just to add to your story, as I was a commune member working in the Body Centre in North London, near the shop the commune had in England’s Lane at the time.

    As you say, Ronnie put a brick through the window of the shop where there was a big pic of Osho, and there were witnesses, and he was arrested. He was taken to Hampstead Police station, obviously inebriated.

    Female Poonam, then the Co-ordiantor of the English Commune, according to the senior management, at the time rang the Ranch and asked for Osho’s advice as to whether to prosecute, which according to the police we could do.

    The answer from the Ranch, which seemed authentically from Osho, was a simple few words, ‘ “no, don’t prosecute, just tell him to come here.” We told the police to release him.

    Of course he never did go to see Osho, and we paid for the window repair.

    As far as I remember, Somendra (Michael Barnett) also recalled an interaction with Ronnie when he paid good money for a session with him, back in the days of ‘People not Psychiatry’.
    Having paid this good money, I think Somendra was a bit miffed when towards the end of the session Ronnie suggested that LSD might be a good thing for him to try and to stop blabbing.

    I never saw Ronnie speak publicly. But close friends tell me that at the time he did, when not drunk, give excellent oratory on the misalignments, as he saw it, of treatments for the split mind….

    • frank says:

      They managed to keep the story quiet. I only heard about it when browsing in a bookshop years later and I chanced on the full account of the incident in his son Adrian Laing`s ‘R D Laing: A biography’ (1997).

      Adrian was/is a lawyer and actually dealt with this incident himself. He relates that the reason that RD was caught on the night was that after the window incident he had sat down on the pavement to skin up a joint!

      Poonam and co. didn`t press charges, but RD was busted for possession of a couple of grams of hash.

      Adrian has been quoted as saying:
      “Being the son of RD Laing was neither amazing nor enlightening, for most of the time it was a crock of shit.”

      RD was a guru in his own right and had a coterie of mostly women, mostly wealthy (don`t they all?). I came to know one of them personally: a chain dope-smoking millionairess in her fifties, who offered me a job as an escort to accompany her in public in order to aggravate her ex-husband, but that is another story entirely. (I declined).

      I got the impression that he thought of Osho and Sannyas as a bunch of upstarts who had ripped off some of his best riffs!

      • Parmartha says:

        Thanks, Frank.
        An interesting reply. I did not know about R.D. Laing’s son writing a biography…must try and take a look!

        I knew one of R.D. Laing’s daughters a little. She used to serve in her youth in the London sannyas cafe in Highgate Wood. It was called Basho’s, after the the then franchise holder and entrepreneur, who had been Sheela’s hairdresser on the Ranch!

        I remember her very pleasant manner after we used to go there, having done dynamic in Jackson’s Lane, and feeling she was in touch with something herself. Her spirit had a beauty. So I did think he may not have been such a bad father, at least to his daughters!
        Sadly, I hear that she is now struggling with cancer.

        • frank says:

          PM,
          I think he kind of had two families, the second more happy than the first (Adrian being from the first round).

          • frank says:

            I think that Adrian Laing`s version was that after the incident RD was invited to a meeting with the Centre leaders in London, which he declined.

            One part of the story that I found odd (altho` your version was of a brick) was that a heavy drinker would throw a FULL bottle of wine through a window. Bearing in mind he was Scottish, too…
            Now, that really was crazy…!

            Quite a character tho…
            Sigmund Freud meets Rab C. Nesbitt…
            I guess the cosmic playwright was on a bit of a roll, there!

    • madhu dagmar frantzen says:

      “I never saw Ronnie speak publicly. But close friends tell me that at the time he did, when not drunk, give excellent oratory on the misalignments, as he saw it, of treatments for the split mind….” (Parmartha).

      “RD was a guru in his own right and had a coterie of mostly women, mostly wealthy (don`t they all?). I came to know one of them personally: a chain dope-smoking millionairess in her fifties, who offered me a job as an escort to accompany her in public in order to aggravate her ex-husband, but that is another story entirely. (I declined).

      I got the impression that he thought of Osho and Sannyas as a bunch of upstarts who had ripped off some of his best riffs!” (Frank).

      What I owe to the thread topic, Frank and Parmartha too, are quite some deep and moving, ages and ages ago memories. Recalling the time of social, political and social-psychological movements of the sixties and seventies last century in the universities as in civil life.

      Breaking apart some more than Middle-Ages criminal institutional cruelties in treating mental so-called disordered people and opening some of the prison-like standards for suffering people .

      Yes, more than a few of us at that time have had been reading about the London ´Experiment´; me too. Yet I never saw Ronald Laing personally.

      But I went to see Franco Basaglia then (as a Venetian psychiatrist and freedom fighter, his genuine contemporary) as well as his team, when they visited our universities and installed congresses; sharing their experiences about opening the North Italian Psychiatric Prison wards of that time, finding new and other ways to connect with those who had been closed up and isolated, sometimes worse than animals.

      Quite a short but very moving chapter in history. Those kind of guys really played on another social courtyard, as some elders of you Londoners did or are doing; and we all owe them a lot!

      As you both, Frank and Parmartha, kind of indulge in that ´brick-throwing´ or ´bottle-throwing´ London story, I felt to add some of the legacies of these men, which are not mentioned up to now.

      On youtube you can watch a long Canadian documentary called:
      ‘Did You Used to be R.D.Laing?’ (released 2012, at youtube since 2016 and you can also find some other statements of Adrian around there too, etc.).

      And on youtube you can also find some English documentary about Franco Basaglia – title:
      ‘X-Day I grandi della Sciencia del Novecento’/ Franco Basaglia

      Well – only if you are interested to look beyond your garden fences…

      Why I recommend it?
      I simply don´t like your arrogance, so to say….

      Madhu

      • Parmartha says:

        Thanks for the post, Madhu and the references…am not accused of arrogance very often, so for that too, thanks!

          • madhu dagmar frantzen says:

            Hi Frank,
            You skipped your following contribution to the ´matter´ (which I quoted yesterday) from the net:

            “RD was a guru in his own right and had a coterie of mostly women, mostly wealthy (don`t they all?). I came to know one of them personally: a chain dope-smoking millionairess in her fifties, who offered me a job as an escort to accompany her in public in order to aggravate her ex-husband, but that is another story entirely. (I declined).

            I got the impression that he thought of Osho and Sannyas as a bunch of upstarts who had ripped off some of his best riffs!”

            Truth is that you had been posting that crap I quoted, which says more of you yourself than the targeted person.

            ´Replaced´ (?) it by your youtube ´offer´?
            I doubt it.

            Quite a ‘shady’ British media charade….

            Madhu

            • frank says:

              Madhu,
              The millionairess had an old leather Viennese psychoanalytic chaise longue in her living room, which turned out to be excellent for blow jobs. It was quite therapeutic, better than psychoanalysis – more humanistic.

              In the morning the butler came in and was a little surprised to see me sprawled out naked on the couch with a throbbing hangover, but nevertheless brought me a lovely cup of tea.
              He then asked us if we fancied a sausage sandwich. I said I was way too knackered for that as we`d had a pretty heavy night already and sent him off to the drinks cabinet to get us a couple of large scotches, whilst I rolled a couple of generous spliffs.

              It`s what Ronnie would have wanted.

              • Tan says:

                :)
                Frank boy, I should think so.
                This guy had to throw something at Osho, the jealousy was raging! After watching the video you have posted I can understand why the women were a bit crazy about him, but he couldn’t compete with Osho, never!

                With his demented hats, accordingly to Pari, his horrible dresses and that horrible Indian accent, he was beautiful and I can’t understand it, either!
                Not forgetting his bad teeth when he started his guruhood.

                All the women were totally crazy about him, including me.
                Cheers!

  6. frank says:

    PM,
    I only just realised that Bob Mullen, the director of ‘Mad to be Normal’, is the same guy that did a TV programme about Medina in 1983 which had the follow-on book: ‘Life as Laughter: following Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh’.
    Were you in it?

    • Parmartha says:

      Yes, I think there was a shot of me in it. Frank.
      But I just looked, and can’t find the documentary about Medina anywhere, or even what it was called. It was 34 years ago!!!

      Do you have the documentary about Medina yourself?
      If you do, maybe you try and post it here.
      Mullen described himself as a sociologist doing “participant observation” as I recall..!

      I see Dhanyam seems to have a DVD from him about Osho’s life, which Dhanyam describes as excellent…I have never heard of that and wonder when it was produced.
      I don’t mind betting that the incident in England’s Lane with the brick or bottle of wine thrown through the commune shop window, however, won’t be recounted in the present movie….

      I have thought about this, this morning with a few friends. We thought Ronnie might have been a bit miffed because he was in a way a guru himself, but some of those who had been, as it were, ‘with him’ had gone off to Osho and Poona…and left him….

      • frank says:

        PM,
        You say:
        “I don`t mind betting that the incident in England’s Lane with the brick or bottle of wine thrown through the commune shop window, however, won’t be recounted in the present movie….”

        I`m sure you are right.
        I have read that Adrian is against Mullen`s movie because he finds it too hagiographical and would, understandably, have preferred a different, more inclusive, warts-an-all angle.

        Re. the Mullen/Medina vid:
        A quick online browse shows me that it was re-aired on BBC4 on Novemeber 7, 2006 – Title: ‘House of Love’. The Beeb must have it altho` I can`t see it on catch-up.

        I also managed to locate this extract on google books: ‘The Wing of Madness: The Life and Work of R.D.Laing’ by Daniel Burston:

        “Ricki Hornstein, a neighbour and friend of the Laing family, remembers that for 2 weeks before the bottle-throwing incident, he had stalked round to her apartment on at least three occasions, denouncing Rajneesh and angrily demanding to know what this man had done to deserve the adoration of thousands of followers.”
        The author reaches the conclusion that:
        “Laing was obviously envious of Rajneesh.”

        • Parmartha says:

          Thanks, Frank, another interesting post.

          “The house of Love” clue may indeed help; I am in touch with some of the old Medina media people and hope one of them may have kept a copy.

  7. Dhanyam says:

    Frank, here at Osho Viha we not only have the ‘Life as Laughter’ book but also Bob Mullen’s excellent Osho Biography, ‘Osho 1931-1990′, on DVD.

    • frank says:

      Thanks, Dhanyam.
      How did Mullen manage to do a full biography on Osho?

      I notice at Vihar, you are the only people selling it on the net.
      Is it otherwise out of circulation?

      • Dhanyam says:

        I presume Mullen had special access to Osho footage archives. I don’t know why other people don’t sell the biography. We also have a 1980 DVD from BBC film, titled ‘My Dance Is Complete’.

        • swamishanti says:

          I was watching a copy of ‘Osho-1931-1990′ on video, which I believe had come from an Osho site in the Netherlands.

          A bald-nut, a Hari-Krishna friend of a friend, who was very much a devotee of Krishna, happened to be staying in the place.

          He didn`t have a good impression of Osho: “That guy manipulated people” was one of the first comments that came out when he started watching the vid.

          When he saw sannyasins dancing around Osho in his Ranch costumes, “Why are they doing that?” he laughed.

          “That guy was a charlatan,” he remarked, as he grew more tense as the documentary went on.

          “He taught many people techniques of meditation,” I explained, to which he replied, with a hint of disgust, “Yeah, he was a Mayavadi!” (Not sure exactly what he meant by that term, but I believe it suggests that someone has an impersonalistic view of God).

          I suggested that many people were meditating in Poona, as the footage of the Poona 2 meditation hall unfolded.

          “Yeah, they’re going to hell!” He barked.

          After a while the guy started getting ruffled and stood up, but managed to pacify himself with chanting “Hari Krishna, Hari Rama”.

          A good, short documentary, all in all.

          We could do with more such programmes.

        • swamishanti says:

          I believe the ‘My Dance Is Complete’ film was produced around 1988:

          http://gizmofilms.com/portfolio/bhagwan-my-dance-is-complete/

  8. Prem says:

    On this subject (masts, mystics), it would be interesting to make an article about genuine masts like Mast Mohammed and Mast Ali Shah, discovered by Meher Baba. There is extensive info about this on the internet.

    Osho talked about this in many of his discourses.

    http://www.osho.com/iosho/library/read-book/online-library-boundary-meher-baba-madman-5d787383-051?p=2bea72495bab248d88d832ff5ce89459

    http://www.osho.com/iosho/library/read-book/online-library-enlightened-meher-baba-mad-dc045be4-36c?p=3ecea8f3da62025b84b3e6615b5d6053

  9. sw. veet (francesco) says:

    From the little I’ve read on the topic, a couple of alternative hypotheses on the broken window because of the envy:

    1) R. D. Laing was a “pro-social psychopath”: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-neuroscientist-who-discovered-he-was-a-psychopath-180947814/

    2) If it is true that “politically, he was considered a thinker of the New Left” then the answer to the question asked by one of the leaders of the movement applied to Osho for Laing must have been negative:
    “It is the political task of the social scientist – as of any liberal educator – continually to translate personal troubles into public issues, and public issues into the terms of their human meaning for a variety of individuals. It is his task to display in his work – and, as an educator, in his life as well – this kind of sociological imagination.

    And it is his purpose to cultivate such habits of mind among the men and women who are publicly exposed to him. To secure these ends is to secure reason and individuality, and to make these the predominant values of a democratic society.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C.Wright-Mills

    Ciao,

    VF

  10. Kavita says:

    Wow, Bob Mullan actually responded. My letter went like this:

    “Sir Bob Mullan, read about your film, ‘Mad To Be Normal’, on this website: http://sannyasnews.org/now/archives/6785

    I am a sannyassin of Indian origin living in Pune. I tried on the internet to get free links to your movies! Maybe it’s the Indian internet service/some other issue. Would be interesting to see your contribution, if it’s possible to share a way to be able to watch this film, if its not too much trouble, Sir.

    Thank you anyway for being able to contact you here,
    Kavita Kaushik.”

    He wrote, “If people had access to “free” links no film maker would ever have money to make any films.
    Eventually the film will be available through proper channels and then you could rent or buy it.

    I made 3 films at the Pune ashram and loved the city there.”
    44 (0) 7786 127796
    http://www.gizmofilms.com
    https://pro-labs.imdb.com/title/tt4687410/?ref_=nm_filmo_pastfilmvid_1